Three Year Olds & Listening. Help!

14 July 2010
Finn is three.  He is cute, imaginative, and too smart for his own good.  He is funny {in his own mind}, he's helpful, and he is a really fun child to raise.  He has been easy, we are spoiled and fully expect that the next one is going to be just awful. 

He also has recently developed a little habit that makes Dave & I want to tear our hair out.

He pretends we're not talking to him. 

He doesn't do something we ask immediately, it usually takes us asking twice or even multiple times.  He will even blatently ignore us when we look him right in the face and tell him to do something.  It's like he just decides to give us the big Eff You and simply does what he wants.  It is getting to the point of being a problem.

Now, I don't want to be one of those parents that screams, I don't want to spank him daily, or put him in time out all day long, or worse, ignore it and have a spoiled little brat.  I do want to be his parent and help him through this craziness and I do want the listening to begin again.  He has good days and bad days, the good days give us hope that it's over, the bad days make us both frustrated.  In fact, I wrote this post about two weeks ago and he was doing fantastic again until yesterday when it all fell apart again.  I know he is three and he's testing the waters, I just don't know what to do about it. 

We've tried to pin down days when it seems worse than others and there really isn't any rhyme or reason.  We've tried to pinpoint the amounts of exercise he's had for the day, if he's had any sugar,  if he's hungry, too much or too little napping... it happens on days that we watch tv and days that we don't.  The only thing we have noticed is that it is usually a full day of it.  It's almost as if he gets up in the morning and just says, "eh, today I'm going to ignore them."

We really really try to praise him when he's doing things right, we aim for consistency... though we don't always hit the mark and we have zero problems removing him from the situation {leaving friends houses or the store or wherever we might be} if he's misbehaving.  I'm the mom that says "calm down or we're leaving," and will pick him up and take him out if it doesn't stop.

We are not perfect parents by any means, but this... this is making both of us feel like crappy parents.  We want to spend our time with him laughing and having fun and doing things, not yelling or arguing or being upset.     

Just keeping it real peeps.  I need your tips, your techniques, your advice.  What did or didn't work for you?  Is it just something we have to chalk up to childhood and deal with?  Is this what every child goes through?  Should I just be greatful that {generally} in public he's a little angel and NO one believes he's insane some days?


Misc Momma said...

My son is not quite three and his newest habit is to tell me "just a minute". This is hard to respond to because I apparently tell him that ALL THE TIME. So, why is it okay for me, but not okay for him?!

I've really got no advice for you, but I feel your pain, and I'm looking forward to responses from people who might have advice.

Kelly said...

I wish I had advice for you. They go through many phases like this and you kinda have to ride it out. I think you guys are fabulous parents and we all go through these phases. I am definitely in one with A right now and he's 5. I am scared for his poor teacher next month, lol. I'm sure it'll pass though. Keep doing what you are doing!

Cathy @ NurtureStore said...

This is exactly what my daughter was doing a month or so ago (she's just turned 4). Your approach sounds good to me. We were consistent with our daughter, went overboard on praise when she did what we'd asked straightaway, and let her see the consequences of her actions - such as being late to meet her friends in the park if she wouldn't get ready to go. She's now stopped this 'I'm not listening and will do just what I please' phase. So - do you best and this all should soon pass!

Meg said...

Obviously I'm not a parent, nor do I completely comprehend the psyche of a 3 year old. If it were an older kid, I'd say give it right back. Whenever he asked you to do things or talk to you, to pretend that you didn't hear him and see how he liked it. But I'm guessing he's too young to make the connection and that would make me a very passive aggressive bitch of a parent.

Whatever it is, I'm confident it's just a phase and I know you're awesome parents. He's usually such a good little guy too. He'll get over this. Stay strong!

Janiece said...

Try making listening fun again. You can do this by playing listening games. Going about it this way will take the stress off you and he won't know these exercises will creep into his everyday behavior.
Read a story and then Play a game where he remembers what comes next, or who said that. You can get very creative and think of some kind of reward-stickers or making something together.
Play a kind of treasure hunt game; first just ask him to go find the green truck, the yellow ball and he brings it back in his treasure sack. Then ask him to bring 2 things at a time; the shiny mirror, daddy's shoe, etc.
Each time say more things he has to remember 3 or 4 different items. You have to be careful to not go too far for him to remember (5 or 6 things might be too much for a 3 yr. old, you will have to experiment). This kind of talk is something new and exciting, not the same old stuff Mom and Dad always say. Remember Charlie Brown and how the grown-ups sound to him! Then you can turn it around and let him tell you things to find. This way, he has to remember what he told you--you can always "forget" something and then say " I guess I didn't listen to what you said, tell me again".
You are very creative and I'm sure you can take these ideas and think of lots more of your own. Good luck, 3 yr. olds do like to test just to see if you really mean it. Be consistent, but have some fun a few games.

Anonymous said...

a friend of mine specializes in early child development and when her son was not cooperating, listening, paying attention, etc. she asked him to do something. He received a 2nd a request. The 3rd time he was given 2 choices and 2 choices only. He was asked to make a decision and act, if he did not mom/dad would make the decision for him. If he did not choose or participate, the decision was made for him. And they stuck to it no matter what his reaction was. He learned quickly to participate and have the power to make his own choice. He did NOT like having the choices taken away. Plus it promotes confidence. Giving him 2 choices made choosing much easier. I've used this tactic in many ways with neices, nephews and neighborhood kids and once they know you mean what you say, they learn real fast! Good luck!

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